I have always loved words. Been a reader. A person with a big vocabulary. Occasionally accused of snobbery for my use of ten-dollar words, for my correction of others' misuse of them.
It has never been clearer how important words are, as the mother of one son who, like me, delights in words, and yet another who struggles mightily with them.
Word have power.
To define. Or not.
I was never afraid of the word: Autism.
It did not crush me - as I am aware it has others - when first I heard it used to name my son, these many years ago (October 6th, 2004, but who's counting?)
But other words? They do bear the power to harm. To diminish. To "other" a person.
The "R-word" is one of THOSE words: Retard.
Call my son that? Make a joke about it? And I will hurt you.
My friend Ellen has written many a time, and most eloquently, about the harm that word does, and is deeply involved in the campaign to end it. (Read her on this: Would you call my child a retard?)
Right now there is a video making the rounds in the special needs parent blogging community, and beyond, thanks to Joslyn (the Stark Raving Mad Mommy) at Babble. Watch it in her post there: “It’s About Dignity”
Or here, on my friend Jill's blog Yeah. Good Times.
In it the father of a less communicative son on the autism spectrum (I refuse to use the term "low functioning" - believe it leads to viewing people - wrongly - as lesser, and to discounting their intelligence) comes public with the story of his son's suffering humiliation, bullying, cruelty and betrayal at the hands of his teachers and aides.
Yes. His teachers. Not other students. His teachers.
And it was hidden. A secret. His son's sudden deterioration a mystery until the father wired him for sound one day after six months of getting nowhere, going through the proper channels at the school.
The teachers and aides berate him. Tell him to "Shut up!" Make him cry by cruelly telling him "No, that's not going to happen." when he asks, anxiously, if he is going to see his father later. Then call him a "Bastard" for crying.
And it goes on. Gets worse. Their complete disregard for the humanity of the children in their charge apparent in everything they say and do.
(And they didn't all get fired. All but one? Just reassigned within the district. Still "teaching.")
They did not hit this boy, did not abuse him with their hands. But they systematically destroyed him. With words.
Because they could.
Because they knew he could. not. tell. anyone.
He didn't have enough words to do so.
I rejoice in my autistic son's growing facility with words. All the new ways he tells me what he is thinking and feeling. The jokes he makes, even when they involve substituting "stupid" for every other descriptive word in a song.
But still, I know there are whole realms of things he cannot tell me; thoughts and ideas still locked in his head, the language key not yet found that would release them.
And I worry, I worry every day that bad things could happen to him; bad people cross his path, do him harm. And I would never know.
Words have power.
This I know.
The Momalom prompt for today, Tuesday, was “Words.”